All good things must come to an end. That’s especially true in sports. Whether it’s a 56-game hitting streak in baseball or 54 straight games with a touchdown pass, streaks eventually come to a screeching halt.

In the world of MMA, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva is riding an equally impressive winning streak. As if his perfect 16-0 record inside the Octagon wasn’t enough, the Brazilian has reeled off 10 straight title defenses of his 185-pound title. At 38 years old, Silva’s reign has to end at some point, right?

With UFC 162 on the horizon on July 6 in Las Vegas, many pundits are predicting Silva’s demise at the hands of undefeated Chris Weidman. At just 9-0, the 28-year-old possesses a wrestling-heavy background but boxing and submission skills that make him a threat in every aspect of the sport. Is it enough to dethrone the greatest fighter in UFC history? We’ll find out very soon.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Silva – 10, Weidman – 9

Combining near-perfect technique with a flare for the dramatic, it’s difficult to argue that Silva’s not the best striker in MMA. With a background that includes Muay Thai, Taekwondo and boxing, the Brazilian uses timing and angles that no one else in the sport can match. Couple that with a granite chin and a willingness to throw a strike from any position, and Silva’s 22 career stoppages from strikes come as no surprise. What makes Silva so hard to deal with on the feet isn’t just his 78-inch reach or southpaw stance, it’s his speed and precision. He can move out of the way of an opponent’s strike and deliver a vicious counter to the smallest opening. In his most recent outings, he’s utilized knee strikes to the body of both Stephan Bonnar and Chael Sonnen, setting up violent finishes. As long as this fight stays upright, it heavily favors Silva.

If there is one thing that may help Weidman’s chances on the feet, it’s that his reach matches that of Silva’s. The most impressive feat of Weidman’s young career was his second-round knockout of Mark Munoz via elbow in his last fight. However, no matter how much he has trained with Ray Longo on his boxing for this fight, nor how many rounds he’s sparred with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson—who was brought in to emulate Silva in Weidman’s camp—neither will truly prepare Weidman for Silva. Far-more experienced fighters than Weidman have been thoroughly embarrassed by Silva over his seven-year path of destruction in the Octagon. Weidman has shown the ability to deal with solid strikers in Alessio Sakara and the explosive Uriah Hall, but he did so by using his wrestling. Even if he’s never been defeated in his nine career bouts, it’s not safe to assume that the New Yorker will be able to handle Silva standing. The bottom line is that Weidman will not win this fight on the feet.

Ground Game: Silva – 10, Weidman – 9

With all the accolades that Silva possesses in the striking department, many forget that he’s a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the Nogueira brothers. Although Silva rarely hunts for submission finishes—he has just four in 37 career fights—that doesn’t mean he can’t stop a fight on the mat. Against fighters with similar wrestling backgrounds to Weidman’s, Silva was able to dispatch of Dan Henderson by rear-naked choke and Chael Sonnen by an improbable triangle choke. There’s a good chance that the Brazilian will end up on his back in this fight, but don’t expect him to rest quietly from the position.

One of the reasons that many are predicting Weidman to unseat Silva is that unlike the aforementioned Henderson and Sonnen, Weidman possesses a strong submission arsenal. Training under the tutelage of Matt Serra, Weidman has quickly earned the rank of brown belt and has competed in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Fighting World Championship. Weidman has showcased a slick and opportunistic sub game, earning back-to-back wins over Tom Lawlor and Jesse Bongfeldt. If the Team Serra fighter does find himself on top of Silva, he may be the first to truly threaten Silva on the mat in the UFC.

Wrestling: Silva – 9, Weidman – 10

Ever since Silva’s first fight with Sonnen at UFC 117, many have theorized that it will be an elite wrestler that hands the Brazilian his first loss in the promotion. In that fight, Sonnen spent a large portion of the fight in the top position, but was unable to put the champion away. But what many fail to recognize is that Sonnen had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio of 17-to-1 in that fight. Mix in the champion’s documented rib injury, and Silva’s performance does not seem nearly as bad as some remember. In fact, Sonnen only secured three takedowns in that fight. Silva’s takedown defense has kept fights with noted grapplers Demian Maia and Thales Leites upright, and he was able to stuff takedowns in his fight with Henderson as well. Silva is far from an accomplished wrestler, but he is excellent at keeping distance and using a wide base. It’s actually his confidence in his striking that can be his biggest weakness in terms of takedown defense, as he is willing to throw a variety of kicks and knees that wrestlers like Weidman can turn into takedowns. Because of that, don’t be surprised if Silva winds up on his back at some point in this fight.

In reality, Weidman is a less-accomplished wrestler than Sonnen or Henderson despite a New York state championship and two-time All-American honors. In fact, had it not been for some unexpectedly strong performances in the NCAA tournaments during his junior and senior years at Hofstra, he would not have even reached All-American status. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Weidman isn’t a strong wrestler (and grappler), but his wrestling resume reveals some inconsistencies. He had strong showings when it mattered most and thus far, his skills have translated well into MMA. He manhandled Lawlor to set up his D’arce choke win and neutralized the dangerous Hall with takedowns. But there’s one thing to consider against Silva: stances. Unlike Sonnen, who is a southpaw like Silva, Weidman’s shot will be easier for the champion to see. Does that mean that it won’t be effective? Certainly not, but it’s one more thing for Weidman to overcome. Can he get Silva to the mat? Absolutely. Can he do it without eating some massive shots in the process? That’s where the intrigue lies in this fight.

Killer Instinct: Silva – 10, Weidman – 9

To simply call Silva a finisher wouldn’t be giving the Brazilian enough credit. Even without the dramatic comeback win over Sonnen, Silva’s resume is littered with highlight-reel destructions of some of the biggest names to compete in the middleweight division. Just two of his 16 career fights in the UFC have gone the distance. Along the way he’s earned 12 “of the Night” bonuses for his various knockouts and submissions wins. Simply put, when Silva smells blood, there’s very little chance that his opponent will make it out of the round with consciousness intact.

Although Weidman’s resume is much shorter than Silva’s, the unbeaten fighter has shown the ability to put opponents away given the right circumstances. His stoppage wins over Munoz and Hall prove that he packs power in his hands and that his ground-and-pound is likely to do much more damage than Sonnen’s from the top position. And the choke wins over Lawlor and Bongfeldt show that he’s willing to be aggressive and put guys away. It’s just that at this point in his career, he doesn’t yet have the same track record as the champion in terms of putting fighters away.

Desire: Silva – 9, Weidman – 10

Whether Silva is the greatest MMA fighter in history is something that is hard to argue at this point in time. Will someone come along and surpass his records for most wins in the Octagon and title defenses? Maybe. But at 38 years old and having already accomplished so much, it’s not surprising that Silva was hesitant to accept a fight with the less-heralded Weidman. What does he gain from winning this fight? To be honest, not much. But as a champion, he must take on any and all comers.

Having vaulted up the middleweight ladder with five straight wins in the UFC, Weidman is hungry and anxious to test himself against the champion. With a well-rounded toolbox at his disposal, Weidman could very well play spoiler come Saturday night. It took quite a bit of politicking and waiting, but Weidman has what he wanted all along: an opportunity. Now he just has to capitalize on it.

X-Factor

With the 10-year age difference between the two fighters comes the biggest wild card in this match-up: experience. Weidman has been competing in MMA for just four years following his collegiate wrestling career. In contrast, Silva has been active in MMA for 16 years—getting his start when Weidman was still in junior high. Add in the fact that Silva has four times as many fights as his challenger and Weidman’s task on Saturday night becomes that much more difficult.

Total: Silva – 48, Weidman – 47

Verdict: Weidman is a gifted fighter with a truly diverse skill set. He may very well be the future of the 185-pound division. But he’s coming off a year-long layoff to face the most dangerous fighter on the planet. Even if Silva’s heart isn’t in this fight, he’s still too dangerous to write off. With 25 minutes to work with, Silva will find the opening he needs to hand Weidman his first career loss and retain his belt. Silva by second-round TKO.

Photo: Anderson Silva (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

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